The Approach

This is me, July 24th, 1888. That was my favorite year; the sun on my legs as I reclined, happy, above the salted sands of Cape Neddick. Some may tell you I was a bit too young for the experiment. I suppose I was, but with no family to speak of and fresh out of the New York Catholic Children's Asylum, I was desperate for any type of adventure which might take me away from the dirty streets and unironed memories of my youth. Not only that, but a genuine payment was being offered.

One day, while walking down 5th Avenue watching my reflection jump from one glass storefront to the next, I was surprised by the touch of a hand upon my right shoulder. A man in spotless dark brown suit and bowler hat to match, pulled me inside a door-well and proceeded to hand me a card which read, TIME TRAIN~travel through the ages on luxury steam express. I looked at him with what must have been a terrible display of fear, only to be met by a strange expectance.

"Miss, have you ever felt alone, especially in this grand city of a million strangers? Have you ever been poor, hungry, curious as to the world which waits aside of New York's crowded avenues?"

Confused, "Yes, but-"

"Then follow me. We have just one more seat to offer on tonight's coach."
I gasped when a currency of large amount slapped down into my gloved palm. "What is this?"
"Payment, for you are to tell no one of this interaction, or of the trip you about to embark. We need to know more, need to understand how time works. But if the information is released to, say, people of unpalatable variety, horrible things could happen, not only to our organization, but to our country, the whole world."

I stepped away, knocking into a corner spittoon. "I don't know what you mean, and pardon me, but I have to get back to-"

He cleared the space. "To where? We've been following you Abigail Burnett. You live in a tiny room, rented from an alcoholic shopkeeper. You have no family, no finance. You're alone, and for all purpose of the world, simply do not exist. You're exactly the type of person we've been looking for, and are just moldable enough for us to discipline."

"No. Thank you, but no." I brushed past him to stand on the sidewalk again. A group of waifs, all with smudged faces and unkempt hair, clothes ripped--three inches too short at the bottom and too low at the top, edges caked with grime--walked past me. I could smell their poverty. Nine-years-old, that's all they could have been. Yet speech, the scouring verbiage of sailors. Something else hit my senses--the loud blow of a train whistle. It moaned long and low, cutting through the horse hooves and shouts of a city that was too full, too dirty, too human.

I still had the money clutched in my hand. "If . . . if I go, what am I to do? What does this mean, travel through the ages?"

His pursed lips held my eyes captive, as each word issued out in staccato order, "You're just to live, Abigail. And by living, we want to see if anything dies."


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